If you find yourself toe-tapping and humming along to the music on the radio, Saturday night at a club with a live band, or buying tickets to orchestra shows frequently, you might want to consider learning to play instead of always being in the audience. The sheer number of different musical instruments available may leave you confused and unsure about how to decide what instrument to play. Explore why you want to learn and what feels like a natural fit to start down the road to a musical future.
The Music You Enjoy
If you storm the mosh pit every Saturday night at a metal club, playing a piccolo makes little sense. Likewise, if Brahms and Mozart move your spirit, an electric guitar may not be for you. Explore your favorite music. What instruments feature heavily?
Musical Role Models
After you have separated the pan flutes from the percussion sets, think about your favorite musical artists. Even in the smallest rock band, there are still guitar players, drummers, and bassists. A full concert orchestra gives more options. If you are a huge fan of jazz legend Louie Armstrong, violinist Itzhak Perlman, or rock drummer Neil Peart, picking the instrument they play is a great idea.
Pick Something Fun and Comfortable
Even if your favorite artist plays a particular instrument, if you pick it up and it feels awkward or uncomfortable, something else may suit you better. If you do not feel natural holding it, you will find practicing a chore rather than a labor of love.
Take some time to learn a few notes, chords, or melodies on each and pay attention to how intuitive the playstyle is for you. It is normal to feel some soreness or stiffness the first time you play something that requires different hand or body positions than what you are used to, but you should get used to it in time. Sometimes, the instrument practically picks the player.
Consider Multiple Instruments
When trying things out at the beginning, spending time with multiple instruments helps. If you attend a music school or private lessons, the teachers should make more than one option available to you. If you intend to self-teach, an afternoon at a music shop might work. More experienced players can tell if your hands will be able to span an octave on the piano or comfortably reach the highest frets on a bass fiddle.
Also, remember that the instrument you choose now does not have to be the only one you play for the rest of your life. If you have the time and budget, learning two at the same time works. In the end, it comes down to a personal decision about the type of music and playstyle you want to get involved in. Whether you intend to perform in front of a crowd, serenade your significant other, or just want to expand your own horizons privately, deciding what instrument to play comes first.
Joshua Gruss is the Chairman, CEO and founder of Round Hill Music.